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Surfski Philosophy

I have written quite a bit about the great physical benefits of paddling a surfski, but I would be missing the most critical element if I didn’t address the mental component.   In this blog article I would like to address the Triple Bs of TC Surfski.   These are three critical elements that we passionately believe in at TC Surfski.  They are of the utmost importance in all aspects of life and I believe paddling a surfski can be a great way to introduce them to your life.   I hope you enjoy this blog and that it resonates and inspires you to learn more,  but if you feel it is all crazy talk and that I’ll stop at nothing to promote surfskis, then that’s fine too

Be Present

In my humble opinion, our society is facing a global crisis of losing our ability to live in the present moment.   The technology changes that have occurred so rapidly over the past 5-10 years have completely altered our ability to be present and live in the moment in our day to day lives.  If we don’t make a very conscious effort to do this, it will only continue to deteriorate and the impacts on our quality of life will be profound.

For me personally, it started with the advent of e-mail and the addiction to constantly checking e-mail while at work,  but it has quickly snowballed far beyond just e-mail.   Let me give a simple example.   In my day job I work for a global technology company where I am either working on-site with clients or working from home.   On a typical day working from home I will spend 4-5 hours on conference calls.   While I’m on these conference calls I have 10-20 different instant messaging sessions going,  I am checking three different e-mail accounts,  and my cell phone is ringing and receiving text messages nonstop.   While I do have some control and could shut much of this down, there is largely an expectation that you are constantly multi-tasking and responding to all of these incoming requests at once.   Safe to say, I’m not fully present in the conference call, the instant messaging or the e-mail.   When the work day “ends” I still have my phone on me at all times and hear a little chime every time a new e-mail arrives and again there is an expectation that I am responding to important e-mails regardless of the hour.  Working for a  global company, the e-mails come in around the clock.   I haven’t gotten into Facebook, Linked In, or any of the other big social networking sites, but add those into the mix and I think you’re probably starting to get the picture.     And for those who also watch TV, you can add that to the mix after the work day ends.  I would venture to say this is the norm for most people.

I am convinced that this barrage of media is taking a toll on our mental health and our ability to live in the present moment and have true clarity of thought.   I do think more and more people are realizing this and hence the ever growing popularity of yoga and other meditative activities.

The beauty of paddling a surfski is that it absolutely forces you to be present in the moment.  This is especially true when you are first learning and in all cases when you are out in waves.   Your brain will be consumed with sensing each and every wave and boat movement and making the necessary balance corrections and stroke adjustments.  Although you should carry your cell phone in a waterproof case for safety purposes,  you will not hear it and you definitely won’t be trying to read text messages or Facebook as you paddle because that is simply not possible.    I know that it can be argued that with any activity you can practice being totally present in the moment and I believe this is true and will make you more proficient at whatever you do,  but with  high intensity sports such as surfski paddling, kite surfing, white water paddling and skydiving, it is  more automatic because you really don’t have a choice

I only recently became exposed to some of the thought leaders in the meditation/awareness world.   Before this exposure and awareness I could never pin point exactly why it felt so good at the end of the day after doing these types of activities.  I now realize that in addition to the obvious physical benefits and stress relief from endorphins generated through physical activity and adrenaline, there was also this element of being absolutely present in the moment, after which moments of piece and clarity always seem to follow.

Be Challenged

In addition to learning to live in the present moment,  I believe it is equally important to truly challenge yourself.   As a society many of us have come to expect instant success and gratification in all aspects of our lives.   However, the truth is that the most rewarding things in our life are those that we have  had to work and struggle to achieve.   Developing the confidence, drive, and grit to take on tough challenges only comes from doing it.

As a father to 4 ½ year old twins I am always on the lookout for information and guidance on how to raise them to be successful and happy in life.   A few months ago I came across an extremely thought provoking article in the New York Time titled:  What if the secret to success is failure?

This was a fascinating article for me as a parent.   I know it is long, but I highly recommend reading it in full.   The net/net from the article is that grit and determination are the true keys to success and happiness in life, much more so than any natural born talents,  intelligence or schooling.  So the question is, are some people just born with strong amounts of grit and determination, or is it developed and nurtured through exposure and experiences.   I believe the latter,   and that is why I believe taking on significant challenges and having some failures early in life is critical to long term happiness and success.    Relating this back to paddling,  you will most certainly experience some failure  when you first start paddling, especially when out in waves.   But if you stick with it, you will definitely overcome this.

Along similar but different lines, I recently read a fascinating and thought provoking  New York Times best selling book by Geoff Colvin titled: Talent Is Overrated.   I highly recommend this book to everyone I meet,  it was very inspirational to me and helped me to understand a lot things about who I was and what made me tick.   It essentially explores and summarizes a growing body of research proving that the notion of “natural talents” is a misconception and highly overrated, and that mastering anything in life is much more a result of grit, determination, and deliberate practice.   In summary, while pure talent may get you from point A to D quicker than the next guy,  it won’t get you from E to Z.   Only hard work and the determination to constantly push up against your comfort zone will get you there, no matter what the pursuit.

This absolutely validates my own experience in paddling.   I truly did not have any natural talent to carry me when I started out paddling.   But with time and continuing to safely push my limits I eventually developed into a competent surfski paddler.   It is true
a very athletic person may have an initial advantage, but I honestly believe with surfski paddling that natural advantage very quickly runs out and there is no substitute for “time in the seat” and the determination to continuously, albeit safely,  push the limits of your current ability.

Be Unique

Being truly unique has become more and more critical in order to compete in the globally connected world that the technology revolution has enabled.   In my day job,  I see intimately how competitive the job market has become with globalization.   For my kids, I know that when they graduate from College the job market will be even more competitive than it is today and success will be highly dependent on differentiating yourself, being creative,  being open minded, and having true grit and determination.

The more unique things that you do in life, the more interesting and creative you become.   I remember being in a leadership class and the instructor emphasizing that to be a highly successful leader you need to be a unique and interesting person first and foremost.

Paddling a surfski will certainly make you unique.   I sincerely hope that I can grow the sport in our region but I know I have a long way to go and I’m quite certain t it will remain a unique and niche sport for years to come.   I could be wrong, but  I don’t think we’ll see the big box stores selling surfskis to the masses anytime soon.

The Cliff Notes 

  • We need to make a conscious effort to be present in our daily lives.  High intensity activities such as paddling a surfski are a great way to develop this ability
  • We need to push ourselves beyond the need for instant success and take on true mental and physical challenges which will truly build our confidence and lead to a snowball effect,  opening our mind to learning new activities and living a fuller life
  • It is critical that we as parents take on tough challenges as an example for our kids and also nurture them early in life to take on tough challenges and deal with the initial failures that are likely to occur
  • Talent IS overrated.  Anyone with the right determination, focus, and pure grit can learn and even master seemingly difficult challenges
  • It is important to be unique so that you are more interesting to others and can differentiate yourself in an increasingly competitive world


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